Libraries interested in user-centered design are faced with a number of options for measuring and improving their library user experience—usability tests, contextual interviews, and direct observation being a few popular user research methods. User personas are one such tool, helping both communicate UX findings and knowledge of users, and helping guide the design process by ensuring that the right questions are being asked and users remain the central focus in decision making. At Utah State University Libraries, personas provide an imperfect, but compelling lens for understanding library users, helping us assess and improve granular details of design like copy and layout, while also serving as a reminder to keep users at the center of the design process from start to finish. Like many libraries, we have sought out budget-friendly ways to incorporate UX into our everyday library practices. For example, we employ a lightweight usability model that allows us to quickly gather feedback without formal test procedures, and recently adopted a continuous design model that allows us to quickly respond to problems and make improvements as we learn more about our users’ needs. As a complement to this agile, budget-friendly approach, this article will propose a similarly lightweight method of persona creation that allows personas to be developed quickly and improved iteratively as they are put into practice.
The System Usability Scale, or SUS, was created in 1986 by John Brooke and has been used extensively by a variety of industries to test numerous applications and systems. The SUS is a technology agnostic tool consisting of ten questions with five responses for each question from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Incorporating the SUS into library website and system usability testing may offer several benefits worth considering, however, it does have some very specific limitations and implementation challenges. This article summarizes examples in library and general literature of how the SUS has been incorporated into usability testing for websites, discovery tools, medical technologies, and print materials. Benefits and challenges of the SUS, best practices for incorporating SUS into usability testing, and grading complexities are also examined. Possible alternatives and supplementary tools, such as single-item scales or other evaluative frameworks such as the UMUX, UMUX-LITE or SUPR-Q, are also briefly discussed.
The convergence of UX, ethnography, and service/human-centered design in libraries benefits tremendously from generous and devoted voices that come from a variety of backgrounds and from whom we can all learn. But as someone coming to user experience from a career in libraries, I have chiefly advocated that librarians should place ‘user experience’ front and center in our terminology, even if this potentially de-emphasizes ethnography or service design despite the obvious and independent value they both offer. Why? Because I believe our effort is most fundamentally to uncover the real experience and behavior of our users and improve, or develop new, services in response to what we learn. We should focus on the user above all else not only in the work we do but also in the terminology we use.
When Nina Simon became the director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in California, the museum was faced with the question of whether or not they were relevant anymore. Over her time there, Simon has transformed the museum into a thriving community hub. Early on in her role as director, Simon began to see relevance as a key to engaging with users. In The Art of Relevance, Simon provides practical steps, advice, and insights into the participatory design she has implemented so successfully at her museum, offering librarians a new perspective on user experience at our institutions. The metaphor of relevance as a key is used throughout the book and is a useful framework for libraries trying not only to improve the user experience, but to create new doors to allow non-users to enter the library and find meaning there too.
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